About Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal was born April 24, 1954, in Philadelphia. At the time of his arrest there on December 9, 1981, on charges of the murder of a police officer, he was a leading broadcast journalist and president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black Journalists. Widely acclaimed for his award-winning work with NPR, Mutual Black Network, National Black Network, WUHY (now WHYY), and other stations, he was known as Philadelphia’s “voice for the voiceless.”
At the age of fourteen, Mumia was beaten and arrested for protesting at a presidential rally for George Wallace. In the fall of 1968, he became a founding member and Lieutenant Minister of Information of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. During the summer of 1970, he worked for the Party newspaper in Oakland, California, returning to Philadelphia shortly before the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention and the city police raid of all three local offices of the Panther Party.
Throughout the following decade, Mumia’s hard-hitting criticism of the Philadelphia Police Department and the Rizzo administration marked him as a journalist “to watch.” His unyielding rejection of Mayor Rizzo’s version of the city’s 1978 siege of the MOVE organization (in the Powelton Village neighborhood of West Philadelphia) particularly incensed the establishment, and eventually cost him his broadcast job. In order to support his growing family, Mumia began to work night shifts as a cabdriver.
In the early morning hours of December 9, 1981, Mumia was critically shot and beaten by police and charged with the murder of officer Daniel Faulkner. Put on trial before Philadelphia’s notorious “hanging judge,” Albert Sabo, he was convicted and sentenced to death on July 3, 1982.
After years of challenges and international protests, on December 18, 2001, the US District Court overturned the death sentence, but upheld the conviction. Judge Yohn’s District Court decision was appealed by both sides, with the prosecution objecting to the overturn of the capital sentence and Mumia’s attorneys rejecting the upheld conviction. On April 26, 2011 the decision to vacate the death sentence was upheld and in October of that year the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. On December 7, 2011 the Philadelphia District Attorney announced they would no longer seek the death penalty. In late January 2012 Mumia was moved, for the first time, into the general prison population after almost 30 years on death row. Mumia is currently sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On March 30, 2015, Mumia was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Mumia’s diabetic shock came in the midst of an escalating year-long health crisis that began with a rash in August 2014. The skin condition grew in intensity over the course of the next several months, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that was resistant to conventional treatments. In August 2015 a lawsuit was filed to demand treatment of Mumia’s active Hepatitis C, which has likely been the underlying cause of his health crisis. The lawsuit is progressing and if successful will positively impact thousands of people incarcerated without proper medical treatment, in the meantime Mumia is not receiving the treatment that would cure his Hepatits C and his life remains at risk.
Starting with the Black Panther Party’s national newspaper, Mumia has reported on the racism and inequity in our society. He added radio to his portfolio, eventually recording a series of reports from death row for NPR’s All Things Considered. However, NPR, caving in to political pressure, refused to air the programs. Mumia Abu-Jamal is still fighting for his own freedom from prison, and through his powerful voice, for the freedom of all people.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of Live from Death Row, All Things Censored, Death Blossoms, Faith of Our Fathers, Jailhouse Lawyers, The Classroom and the Cell, and Writing on the Wall. His audio recordings include 175 Progress Drive and All Things Censored. He holds a BA from Goddard College and an MA from California State University, Dominguez Hills and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. His books have sold more than 100,000 copies and have been translated into seven languages. His commentaries appear in periodicals throughout the world and can be heard on www.prisonradio.org.